Mexico's new antidiscrimination law decried as too weak

BY Advocate.com Editors

June 17 2003 12:00 AM ET

A new, groundbreaking antidiscrimination measure signed into law with fanfare last week already is being questioned by some who say it lacks a means of enforcement. Mexican president Vicente Fox called the federal measure "historic" when he signed it June 9. "It establishes that nobody should be excluded from social well-being because of ethnic origin, gender, age, or religion," the president said. Gay activists lauded the new law as an important governmental effort to improve civil rights. But many also said they were concerned about what they termed its broad and vague language. The law requires federal agencies to take steps to eliminate discrimination and calls for a campaign to promote tolerance in society. It also makes it illegal to discriminate against people on the basis of "ethnic or national origin, sex, age, disability, social or economic condition, conditions of health, pregnancy, language, religion, opinions, sexual preferences, or civil status."

But the measure's far-reaching goals seem contradictory in light of its narrow enforcement options. A new National Council to Prevent Discrimination is supposed to receive and act upon complaints. Violators, however, will not be subject to criminal penalties. One recommended punishment is to shame discriminators if they fail to shape up by posting signs at their offices or publishing official declarations
condemning their actions. Otherwise, the measure simply offers suggestions on how to deal with
discrimination and leaves it up to the new council to determine most enforcement measures. "It's an instrument of great importance for us because it recognizes the problem," said Rodolfo Millan, legal coordinator for the Citizens Commission Against Homophobic Crimes. "But even so, we believe it is insufficient."

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